Causing death by dangerous driving

Road Traffic Act 1988 s.1

Section 1 of the Act defines the above offence as:

  • A person who causes the death of another person by driving a mechanically propelled vehicle dangerously on a road or other public place is guilty of an offence.

DANGEROUS DRIVING

Road Traffic Act 1988 s.2

Section 2 of the Act defines the offence as:

  • A person who drives a mechanically propelled vehicle dangerously on a road or other public place is guilty of an offence.

MEANING OF DANGEROUS

Section 2A of the Act defines the meaning of “dangerous” in this context. The entire section is given below:

(1)  For the purposes of sections 1 and 2 above, a person is to be regarded as driving dangerously if (and, subject to subsection (2) below, only if) -

(a)  the way he drives falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver, and
(b)  it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.

(2)  A person is also to be regarded as driving dangerously for the purposes of sections 1 and 2 above if it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving the vehicle in its current state would be dangerous.

(3)  In subsections (1) and (2) above, “dangerous” refers to danger either of injury to any person or of serious damage to property; and in determining for the purposes of those subsections what would be expected of, or obvious to, a competent and careful driver in a particular case, regard shall be had not only to the circumstances of which he could be expected to be aware but also to any circumstances shown to have been within the knowledge of the accused.

(4)  In determining for the purposes of subsection (2) above the state of a vehicle, regard may be had to anything attached to or carried on or in it and to the manner in which it is attached or carried.

  • Note the two separate offences of:
    • s.(1) Driving dangerously.
    • s.(2) Driving a vehicle is a dangerous state of repair.
       
  • Unlike the lesser charge,careless or inconsiderate driving, the way in which you drive must be far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver s.(1)(a)
    • This can at times be the judges understanding of what a competent and careful driver is – what if the judge has no concept of motorcycling?
       
  • And it would be obvious to them s.(1)(b)
    • This can be a major point of contention, can someone with no knowledge of motorcycling say what constitutes dangerous motorcycling?
  • Unlike careless or inconsiderate driving, there has to be actual injury or quantifiable risk of injury to a person or property s.(3)

  • Note the guidance given in s.(3) to determining what would be expected or obvious:
    • Circumstances of which he could be expected to be aware.
    • Circumstances shown to have been within the knowledge of the accused.
       
  • Note the guidance given in s.(4) as regards what constitutes a dangerous vehicle:
    • Not only the vehicle itself, but also
    • Anything attached or carried on it.
    • This means that although your motorcycle is perfectly safe and mot'd, if you're carrying a large object tied to the pillion seat, you can be stopped for dangerous driving.

OFFENCES

Some examples which may initially attract a charge of dangerous driving include:

  • Ignoring speed limits.
  • Driving unnecessarily fast.
    • No definition for unnecessarily. Subjective decision which has to be justified in court.
  • Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Knowingly driving a dangerous vehicle. 
    • Note knowingly. Was it dangerous or careless. Did you “know” it was dangerous?
  • Deliberate and dangerous distraction on the part of the driver.
    • For example using a mobile phone.
    • Note deliberate; again this would have to be proven in court. Was it merely careless?
  • Unnecessarily aggressive driving.

Depending on the circumstances, these may also be considered under careless or inconsiderate driving. See ADVICE below.


PENALTIES FOR DANGEROUS DRIVING

  • Obligatory disqualification of at least 1 year and extended re-test required.
  • Unlimited fine.
  • Maximum 2 years gaol sentence.
     

PENALTIES CAUSING DEATH BY DANGEROUS DRIVING

  • Obligatory disqualification of at least 2 years and extended re-test required.
  • Unlimited fine.
  • Maximum 14 years gaol sentence.
     

ADVICE

Both dangerous driving and, more so, causing death by dangerous driving, are very serious offences attracting very severe penalties. As soon as you hear the words dangerous driving, appoint a legal representative specialising in motorcycle law. Excessive speed can attract an initial complaint of dangerous driving. If pulled over cautioned and charged with dangerous driving, do not wait until the summons arrives before contacting a legal representative.

From a legal perspective, there is not much of a substantive difference between the offences involving dangerous driving and careless or inconsiderate driving even though the penalties are far more severe for the former offence.

Under s.23 and s.24 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, the court is allowed to convict for the lesser charge of careless or inconsiderate driving if, in its opinion, the evidence is insufficient to convict for dangerous driving. 

Remember, to convict for dangerous driving, actual injury or risk of injury to either a person or property must be shown.

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